Overwhelmed and terrified could be two words best used to describe how I felt upon my arrival as an Au Pair in Melbourne, Australia, looking after three boys. Everyone had said, “oh, you’re going to have your hands full with three little boys”, before I had even left Canada and I thought nothing of it. All I could think about were beaches, surfer boys, and food. Needless to say, they were right. These kids scared the crap out of me and so did all of the work involved. Why is it then, that I had such a difficult time saying goodbye to them? What did these kids do to me? I went from a wild partier five days a week to an instant mom, cutting up apple slices and going to bed no later than nine every night.
Throughout the year, their previous Au Pair, another Canadian girl who happened to be the same age as me, would message me saying how much she missed them. She told me how badly she missed Tuesday night movie nights and that I would look back and feel the same once I was home. Whenever she said this to me I would just say, “you’re crazy, I can’t wait to not have these responsibilities and have my life back”. Now I know what she was talking about. It has been almost two months now since I have had a cuddle from the youngest one and I miss it heaps, as the Aussies would say. I don’t however, miss him dumping a whole bowl of noodles upside down on the couch and proceeding to hide underneath the foosball table pretending nothing had happened. As I look back though, on all of these things that I thought were so horrible at the time, I realize it wasn’t so bad. I too miss Tuesday night movie nights with the boys. I miss tucking them in at night and reading them stories. I miss taking the youngest to the park and pretending to be his pet tiger named ‘Sprinkles’ (in front of a bunch of hot Aussie construction workers). I miss taking them for their beloved 7-Eleven Slurpies after school, even though they were being pumped full of sugar. I miss them more than I ever would have imagined.
My last day in Australia consisted of lunch at a winery in Red Hill (Mornington Peninsula), followed by a pit stop at the beach (so I could say bye to the Ocean), and babysitting the boys one last time. I knew I had an early flight on the Sunday morning so I figured I may as well stay in and spend some with my favourite boys anyways. While at the winery, they gave me a beautiful photo book, which was full of photos of the last year I had spent with them. I had to seriously fight back tears. I had the middle child on my right side, pretty much clinging on to my arm the whole time I looked through the book too, which was really cute. My host parents wrote some very beautiful words for me, about many of the things I had discussed with them throughout the year, my ups and my downs, and I can’t help but wipe tears away as I type this. They taught me so much and I will be forever grateful for them.
I was basically an emotional wreck for the whole last night there. It only made sense that I had my last movie night with the boys. When it was time for bed, I tucked the youngest two in first. You know when you cry so much to the point where you feel like you can’t breathe anymore? That was me. A whole year of memories, of falling in love with these kids… all of my emotions just built up and exploded. It was the hardest I had cried in a very, very long time. The boys kept giving me cuddles and telling me not to cry, that it was going to be okay, which only made it worse. After finally saying goodbye to the youngest two, I went and said goodbye to the oldest. He probably felt kind of awkward, this twenty-something’s girl, completely bawling her eyes out uncontrollably in front of him. I had an interesting relationship with the oldest too because he and I got along more like friends. He was obviously the easiest to take care of, as he was self-sufficient and always tried to tell his brothers to listen to me. The only time he ever got mad at me was when he said I didn’t spend enough one-on-one time with him (which is actually really sweet). We also joked around a lot about more ‘grown-up’ things too, which was nice when you’re around little kids all of the time. I gave him a big hug, said goodbye, and that was it. I went upstairs and continued to cry until I fell asleep.
Not only did I have to say goodbye to these three amazing kids that stole my heart, I had to say goodbye to an American, who also… stole my heart. We had met only two weeks prior to this goodbye but it was enough for me to fall head over heels. My last two weeks were spent with him, out drinking, exploring the city, and watching Planet Earth. He spent the day with us at the winery and at the beach, which was a big deal because I let him meet my Australian family and I had never introduced a guy to them the entire year I was with there. He had to work on my last night there (and I was babysitting anyways) but when he finished work at two in the morning, I drove over to see him one last time (don’t worry, the new Au Pair was still at home with the kids). I feel like this is a goodbye that I will never forget. As I drove away from him, fighting back tears, wondering what the hell was going to happen with us, I could see him standing there, in the middle of the street, staring at my car in the rear view mirror. I wanted to turn around, to go back and not let go of him, but I couldn’t. I still think about him every day, I still get post cards from him in the mail as he is making his way up the East coast of Australia, and I still miss him like crazy.
Saying goodbye is hard. You’re not only saying goodbye to people you have become so close with over the last year, you’re saying goodbye to a life that became yours for that time. I felt like I was a different person in Australia, I had new friends, we explored new bars, restaurants, and cafes, I didn’t have to be Amie from a small town in Southern Ontario, I could be whoever I wanted to be. I miss my Australian family. I miss the American, who I stumbled upon in a café in my last two weeks there. I miss it all. I think the cool thing about it though, is that it doesn’t have to be a goodbye… it can just be a ‘see you later’. I know I will be back at some point. I know there are opportunities to meet up anywhere in the world with these people as we all love to travel. I hope that one day, the American will make his way back to New York and we can see each other again. I know that everything happens for a reason. We meet amazing people along the way that change us. These kids changed me. My host parents changed me by teaching me so much about life. The American taught me that I am capable of feeling, to realize that great guys do exist, and to let myself give in to it all. Whether these people come into our lives for five minutes, an hour, a month, a year… they all teach and change us in the ways they were meant to. This is a huge part of why I travel. This is what makes life so exciting.